It's in the Genes
How genetics influence your child's looks, personality and intelligence
Walk This Way
Although your little miss might stand with her hands on her hips and her head cocked to the side just like mom, scientists believe that characteristic movements of the hands and mouth or ways of walking and moving are learned behaviors, much like languages or accents. Just as you’ll notice sisters or families who move or speak the same way, you’ll see the same similarities among groups of unrelated policemen, farmers, actresses or newscasters. Since children consciously and unconsciously mimic their parents and relatives, we see the same mannerisms in families, but they aren’t genetically inherited.
However babies do come into the world with a set of inherited behavior patterns such as the way they feed themselves (raking first, then using pincer grasp), move, grab at objects, smile, babble, roll over and sit up. But from the moment of birth, they begin to be trained and influenced by parents, caregivers, siblings, friends and teachers. So how much of personality is nature and how much is nurture? Dr. Beauregard says, “We’re not sure, but we’re working on it.” We’ll have to wait a few years or decades to get a definitive answer, however studies show that babies who are particularly good natured, sensitive or aggressive tend to have the same personality traits later in life. The bottom line: each kid is different, so don’t push your expectations upon them — instead love them for the unique and special individuals they are.
Did You Know?
- For every 100 girls born, there will be close to 106 boys? Why? Males are the weaker sex, and the death rate in almost every stage of life is higher for males. So we need more boys to begin with!
- Heredity plays a small role in creating twins. Although a gene for twinning hasn’t been identified, the gene for hyperovulation is passed from mother to child. The sister of a woman who has twins has twice the average chance of having twins too.
- Thirty percent of identical twins exhibit mirror-imaging. That’s when a birthmark, feature or oddity appears on the right side of one twin and the left side of the other. This happens when the single embryo from which they were formed splits like two halves of an apple.
- Speaking of twins: who’s most likely to have them? People of African descent. African Americans have a rate of one twin pair in 73 births, and the Yoruba tribe in Africa sees one set of twins in every 30 births!
- Good news for flat-chested women; your daughters may not be doomed to endure the teasing you got in junior high. The genes for breast size and shape come from both the mother and the father’s side of the family.
- Big eyes are dominant over small ones, prominent noses dominate button noses, dimples and cleft chins are more common than smooth faces, thick lips beat out thin ones and, good news, long lashes are dominant too. Curly hair is dominant over straight unless one of the parents is of Asian descent. Asians have a unique straight hair gene that tends to dominate all the others.
- Who knew? Quirky physical features such as widow’s peaks, cleft chins and gapped front teeth are almost always dominant. Why don’t we see them more often? They tend to show up in varying degrees and may not be immediately noticeable. Also, extensive use of orthodontic braces and hair coloring in our society keeps the traits hidden to observers.
- Do you suffer from the ACHOO Syndrome? ACHOO (Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst) sufferers automatically sneeze when they look at the sun or bright lights. Twenty to 30 percent of the population (the author included) suffers from this amusing malady. Geneticists claim that the syndrome is dominant, runs in families, and the number of sneezes routinely produced is also genetically determined. God bless you!
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